From the classic plain white tee to printed, rockstar, and designer tees, this guide looks at the evolution of men’s t-shirts.

A Guide to T-Shirts for Men

The Classic Men’s T-Shirt

From its humble beginnings as industrial wear to its presence on today’s fashion runways, the t-shirt remains a truly classic and workable piece of nearly every man’s lifestyle. Its design, based on simplicity, makes for a wardrobe of endless possibilities!

From Union Suit to Plain White “T”

Historical men’s t-shirt designs consisted of the top half of a union suit, originally a long-sleeved garment that spanned from the neckline down to the ankles. Shaped just like a “T,” the original crewneck t-shirts premiered in the U.S. Navy. Lightweight, comfy and inexpensive, this garment quickly became the garment of choice for seamen, workmen, and even young boys. The Great Depression furthered the popularity of this economically savvy garment. Marlon Brando’s solid white tee rose to the height of fashion when it was first seen in the 1951 drama “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Printed T-shirts

Companies in the U.S. began using ink to design specially themed t-shirts bearing cartoon characters, logos, and super unique tie-dye. As theme tees rose in popularity for both sexes, manufacturers developed a number of advanced dye techniques. From paintlike dyes to laser screen printing, licensed character t-shirts, such as Disney, were amongst the hundreds of unique and colorful t-shirt designs.

Rockstar Tees

The Grateful Dead were amongst the first to have unique custom t-shirt designs, usually an artful tie-dye featuring a parade of boldly-colored teddy bears. In the 80′s, rock and metal bands such as Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, and Metallica adopted plain or band logo t-shirts as their “costume” of choice on stage.

T-Shirt Designers

In the 1990′s, famous brand name t-shirts became wildly popular among the fashion conscious. Labels such as Calvin Klein Jeans, Gap, Ralph Lauren, and many others began using their artfully screen-printed logos. Today, designer tees come in thousands of trademark designs, many with the original crewneck cut first seen in the U.S. Navy.

Popular Men’s T-Shirts

  • Polo shirt: A versatile collared shirt that adds a touch of style.
  • Graphic T-shirts: These shirts often feature abstract patterns and designs.
  • Long-sleeved t-shirt: Horizontal striped long-sleeve tees are a timeless classic when it comes to men’s t-shirts.
  • V-neck t-shirt: Opt for a slightly deeper v-neck to add some flair.
  • Crewcut t-shirt: The classic style with the rounded neck is still the most popular style of t-shirt.
  • Grandad t-shirt: Short-sleeve, a well-fitted shirt that’s partially button-up.
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